‘Sordid Chapter’ Ends As Philippines Sends Back Canada’s Trash

The Philippines shipped 69 containers of garbage back to Canada on Friday.
Nilo Palaya/AP

By Merrit Kennedy/npr.org – Shipping containers of Canadian trash have moldered in the Philippines for years, in a situation so irksome to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte that he threatened to personally sail it back to Canadian waters.

Now, much of the trash that arrived in 2013 and 2014 is on its way back to Canada. The Canadian government says that 69 shipping containers of rubbish have left the Philippines and are expected to reach Canada by the end of June.

The long-running saga highlights the frustrations of multiple Asian countries that have received unwelcome, nonrecyclable trash. The Philippine government accused Canada of missing a deadline to take back its waste and even said it was recalling its ambassador and consuls from Canada over the dispute.

“I cannot understand why they’re making us a dump site,” Duterte said at a news conference last month, in which he threatened to declare war against Canada if it didn’t remove its waste. “I will not allow that kind of s***.”

“The Government of Canada is taking all the necessary measures to ensure safe and environmentally sound transport, handling and disposal of the waste in Canada,” Gabrielle Lamontagne, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Canada, told NPR in an emailed statement. She added that it will eventually be disposed of at a waste-to-energy facility in Vancouver.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin seemed particularly pleased to see the waste leave his country. “Baaaaaaaaa bye, as we say it,” he wrote on Twitter, with an image of the ship sailing away.

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